A Decade in the DRC: People in Need's Response to the Congolese Crisis

Published: Sep 13, 2019 Reading time: 4 minutes
A Decade in the DRC: People in Need's Response to the Congolese Crisis
© Zawadi Izabayo

Prague, Bukavu (September 16, 2019) – According to the United Nations, 12.8 million people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are currently in need of humanitarian aid. Of these, 5.6 million are children. The Czech NGO People in Need (PIN) has been working in DR Congo since 2008, and every year, despite difficult safety-related conditions, helps hundreds of thousands of the most vulnerable Congolese people gain access to education, healthcare and other basic services. Thanks to its local team and close collaboration with local partners, PIN has been providing assistance in hard-to-access areas of South Kivu and Maniema provinces, where the organisation tackles acute malnutrition in children and mothers. Thanks to this help, some 2,500 Congolese children are cured of malnutrition every year and tens of thousands of people are trained in disease prevention, which is essential for reducing high rates of child mortality caused by extreme poverty.

“As a result of poor healthcare and malnutrition, one in seven children die before their fifth birthday. People in Need has been helping cure malnutrition and trains people how to prevent it,” says Zuzana Břehová, PIN’s Desk Officer for DR Congo programme.

Břehová added: “For a long time, we have been focusing on prevention within communities, which entails educating on issues like food diversification for mothers and children, the importance of breastfeeding for healthy development of children, and general hygiene and sanitary conditions. We also concentrate on subsequent treatment in health facilities, where we train health professionals and supply medicine to cure malnutrition and other frequent diseases. Last year alone we helped cure acute malnutrition in almost 3,000 children, and our awareness-raising prevention activities reached about 16,000 people.” 

Apart from malnutrition, PIN also deals with food insecurity in the DRC. Local farmers are taught how to cultivate their land to increase yields, and PIN distributes quality seeds and essential farm tools. More than 10,000 people have received trainings (including practical trainings performed on small pieces of land) offered by PIN and its affiliates.

“I took part in the training in order to learn new agricultural practices,” says Byenda Bitingwe, 36, who lives with her husband and eight children in the eastern part of DR Congo. “I was also given all seeds I need to secure enough food for my family.”

PIN has also helped people in DR Congo access information about basic rights. For example, because legal services are often financially and geographically inaccessible for many in the country, PIN helped establish 9 mobile courts, full-service legal systems that move from village to village. PIN also supported education in rural areas; since 2008, 65 new classrooms have been built and 90 classrooms have been renovated, enabling thousands of children to attend school.

Despite significant reserves of natural resources, DR Congo has one of the highest rates of poverty in the world, and, according to the UN, years of political instability and conflict have impeded the country’s economic and social development.

“We started our mission in the DRC by helping victims of sexual violence, which remains a commonly-used weapon of the rebels, especially in the eastern part of the country,” says Břehová. “Still, we continue to work in unstable and remote areas where our help is most needed. Since 2008, our activities and expertise have extended beyond the original mandate. We always try to connect more sectors as they are often closely related and we are able to achieve better results.”

For instance, PIN combines malnutrition treatment programmes with prevention and focuses on interrelated issues like health, water and hygiene. Moreover, PIN supports agricultural and other activities contributing to quality and nutrient-dense food. PIN focuses on the most vulnerable population groups, particularly on internal refugees escaping local conflicts, as well as the host families that assist them.

“Despite a very complex context and a problematic security situation in the country, we can see positive impacts of our still much-needed work,” Břehová says, adding: “We want to continue helping people in DR Congo. Besides our present goals, we would like to renew our focus in the field of education and enhancing resilience of people and societies affected by sudden crises. Apart from the programmes aimed at justice and enforcement of basic human rights, we would like to support local entrepreneurs and assist in the development of local markets to improve the health of the local economy."

PIN has been able to operate in DR Congo thanks to the generous support of the Czech public through People in Need’s Club of Friends and the Real Aid fundraising campaign. Institutional help is provided by the European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Department (ECHO), the government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada, the UN’s DRC Humanitarian Fund and the UN Development Programme.

People in Need would like to express its gratitude and thank all donors for their support.

For more information please contact:

Zuzana Břehová, PIN country programme coordinator in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, at +420 775 910 817 or zuzana.brehova@peopleinneed.cz

Author: People in Need

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